What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that affects attention, impulse control and behavior. It’s a common condition in children and adults.

The condition is caused by problems with brain development during key stages in life. It can run in families and is often hereditary.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

If you’ve ever had to deal with the challenges of living with ADHD, you know it can be frustrating, even life-altering. But you’re not alone. Roughly 5% of the adult population has ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity or a combination of both. These symptoms can develop in a child as early as 3 years of age, but most people receive their diagnosis by the time they’re 12.

Boys tend to have more hyperactive/impulsive symptoms than girls. They may fidget, run around or climb excessively in inappropriate situations. They can also blurt out answers before they’re finished or interrupt others.

In addition to causing problems at home and school, ADHD can cause significant disruptions in work and social relationships. It can lead to job loss, depression and substance abuse.

It can even lead to suicide. Despite this, an accurate diagnosis can help you get the right treatment.

In most cases, a doctor diagnoses someone with ADHD when the symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity significantly interfere with daily functioning in multiple settings. However, other conditions can mimic the signs of ADHD, including learning disorders, mood disorders, anxiety and some mental health medications, such as steroid use.

Types of ADHD

The American Psychiatric Association has defined three main types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Each type presents with a different set of symptoms.

ADHD, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: This is the most common type of ADHD and is characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Children with this type often move around a lot and have a hard time controlling their behavior.

They may get distracted easily and have a difficult time following directions. They are also likely to lose things frequently, such as keys, paperwork, wallets and cell phones.

People with this type of ADHD are more likely to make careless mistakes, such as forgetting to pay bills or send birthday cards on time. They are also more likely to get in trouble with friends and family members.

Adults with this type of ADHD are more likely to have a hard time paying attention during work or conversations. They are also more likely to lose things, such as keys or project notes.

This type of ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in children and girls than it is in boys. However, it is possible for a person to have both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. This is known as ADHD combined. In order to be diagnosed with this type of ADHD, an individual must show six or more signs of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive behaviors.

Causes of ADHD

ADHD is mostly genetic, but there are also some factors in the environment that can cause it. For example, children born prematurely or whose mothers use drugs during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing ADHD.

In addition, if a parent has ADHD or an older sibling has it, there’s a chance your child will develop the condition as well. If you are concerned that your child might have ADHD, speak to your pediatrician or family doctor about the possibility.

Some researchers believe that diet, parenting style, and environmental toxins like pesticides and lead can contribute to ADHD. However, research has shown that a healthy diet and positive parenting techniques can help your child.

If your child is experiencing problems in school, talk to the teacher and request an evaluation. This is free and will include a series of standardized tests.

Your child’s doctor may refer your child to a specialist, such as a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist.

If your child’s symptoms are severe and interfere with his or her work, school or social life, talk to your pediatrician about a possible diagnosis of ADHD. This can be an important step in finding a treatment that works for you and your family.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

If you believe your child may have ADHD, the first step is to talk with a health care provider. A primary care doctor or psychiatrist can diagnose the condition and help you choose treatment.

The diagnosis is made after examining your child’s symptoms and reviewing his or her medical and psychiatric history. Your healthcare provider will also check for other conditions that may cause similar symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders.

To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor uses the DSM-5, which is the American Psychiatric Association’s guide for diagnosing mental illnesses and other conditions. The guide differentiates three types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominant hyperactive/impulsive and combined.

Predominantly inattentive type (formerly called ADD): Your child has had behavior of inattentiveness (such as failure to pay attention, making careless mistakes or difficulty paying attention during activities) present for six months.

Often has trouble focusing on tasks or engaging in play and may blurt out answers before questions are asked.

Cannot follow through on instructions or is easily distracted and fails to complete schoolwork, chores or other duties in the workplace.

To diagnose ADHD in adults, your health care provider needs to see that the symptoms have been present for at least 6 months and were not present before age 12. If you or your child have recently experienced problems, your doctor is likely to refer you to a specialist.

Treatsments for ADHD

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends medication, behavior therapy and school support as the most effective ways to treat ADHD. Medications are usually the first treatment option. They help manage symptoms like inattention, impulsivity and lack of self-control.

Stimulant medications, which work by increasing the amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain, are commonly used for ADHD. They can be taken as a pill, capsule, liquid or skin patch.

In addition, stimulants are sometimes used in combination with behavioral therapies to improve the patient’s social and problem-solving skills. This type of therapy helps people with ADHD learn to focus on their tasks, avoid distractions and follow rules.

Other treatments for ADHD include neurofeedback, a form of brainwave training. It uses a machine that reads your brain waves and sends feedback to your brain to help you control your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Non-stimulant drugs are another way to treat ADHD. They can improve concentration, but they don’t work as quickly as stimulants.

They are more expensive than stimulants and can cause side effects. Some children who take these medications experience tics, which are a repetitive movement or sound such as eye blinking or throat clearing.

ADHD in Adults

Adults with ADHD can have many of the same symptoms as children. These can include difficulty concentrating on school or work, impulsive behavior, and problems paying attention to detail.

Although adults with ADHD often have the same symptoms as kids, they can also have other problems, such as depression or anxiety. They can have a hard time keeping a job, following rules and deadlines at work, and managing their finances.

A person may be diagnosed with adult ADHD if they have five or more of the following symptoms. These symptoms must occur in two or more settings (home, school, or work) and interfere with social, academic, or job functioning.

The exact cause of ADHD isn’t fully known, but it seems to run in families and is believed to be related to genetics and environmental factors.

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you might have adult ADHD. They can help you get a diagnosis and work with you on treatment. They can also help you find a support group or professional that has experience with treating adults with ADHD. They can also help you find medication or psychotherapy that works for you.

ADHD Medication

ADHD medications can help people with the condition focus their thoughts and control impulses. They may also help improve skills like paying attention, listening carefully, and staying organized.

Stimulant medications are usually the first type of medication doctors prescribe to children and adults with ADHD. These are called psychostimulants and fall into two drug classes: methylphenidates (such as Adderall) or amphetamines (such as Concerta).

Most stimulants work quickly and effectively, although they can have some side effects. Loss of appetite and trouble sleeping are the most common.

Non-stimulants are often prescribed in conjunction with stimulants to treat ADHD. These medications increase the level of a chemical in your brain called norepinephrine, which helps you concentrate and control your impulses.

Atomoxetine (Strattera) is a non-stimulant medicine that works by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in your brain. It is safe and effective for adults, teenagers and children over the age of 5 who don’t respond to methylphenidate or lisdexamfetamine.

Most ADHD medications have side effects, but some can be eliminated or reduced with a few simple strategies. They can include losing weight, having trouble sleeping, jitteriness or moodiness, headaches, stomachaches, and high blood pressure. They often go away after a few days or weeks as your body gets used to the medicine.

This research was published in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine(NIH/NLM):

***One should only use these stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta or Vyvanse) if prescribed by their physician. Recreational use is prohibited & the risk for potential abuse of these drugs is extremely high.***

Scientists Explore Twitter for Non-Medical Use of Adderall:

Case Report: Testicular failure possibly associated with chronic use of methylphenidate (Ritalin):

Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review:

Understanding the Risk of Using Medications for ADHD with Respect to Physical Growth and Cardiovascular Function:

Influence of amphetamines on plasma corticosteroid & growth hormone levels in man:

DEA classification of Methylphenidates:

DEA classification of Adderal, Ritalin, Cocaine, Vicodin, Methamphetamine & Oxycontin:

Adderall Sales Numbers according to the IMS:

Animations & script inspired by: Reaction – How Does Adderall(TM) work:

Welcome to episode 2 of MEDspirational Science! This week’s episode discusses the impact that long term Adderall & Ritalin use can have on our physiology & overall health. The prevalence of stimulant use (medically & non-medically) in college & post-graduate programs continues to sky rocket! Student’s have compared stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse & Concerta to performance enhancing drugs in athletes – claiming that they can work as a sort of cognitive steroid that enhances mental focus & therefore increases their ability to cram before a test. Today we explore these claims & take an in depth look at how these drugs work in the human body!

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